Happy Lent....and I mean it. ~~~Revised~~~

I revise this Blog Post nearly every year.  Of all the things I've written it is probably one of my favorite pieces.  It seems doubly appropriate this year since Ash Wednesday will be falling in the same week that has been scheduled to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness (one of my pet causes).  I ask those of you who do not believe as I do to refrain from discounting my beliefs in this post and instead take my message as it stands.  Religion or no... Lent the way I envision it is still a wonderful practice.

I’m not Catholic, most of my family is though, so every year I find myself pondering and practicing Lent in some form or another. As a teen and younger adult I found the whole idea stupid. I have never been big into self-denial and most of the things that people seem to be giving up *for Lent* appear to me to be self serving and usually things they ought to give up anyway.

Swearing. Now there’s one I’ve done. Picked it right back up too. Smoking....oh the failures I’ve seen here.....the last several years I gave up fast-food. Not because I thought Micky D’s made me less spiritual but because I gain a few pounds in my Winter hibernation and Lent is as good a reason as any to go on a diet. Two birds with one stone.  I'm practical that way.  I’ll do that again this year, but I’m not even going to try to convince anyone it is for Lent. It is to better serve my vanity and ego. It’s a diet.

Most Catholics give up meat on Friday and only eat fish (which I still consider is, after all, animal flesh). I’ll do that too, but not because its Lent or because its about because I LIKE fish and its healthy and low in calories...and its going to be on sale everywhere. Once again, its self-serving.

I also started practicing "niceness" during Lent several years ago. Not everyday kind of niceness, but the go-out-of-your-way-to-be-nice kind of thing together with the fish and fast-food diet. I felt better. In an older blog I once asked this question of my readers and I’m asking it again today:
Can't we practice Lent
in joyful giving instead
of in meaningless sacrifice?
I think we can.

Don’t give up biting your nails. Give up an hour to read to a child.

Don’t give up chocolate. Make a daily visit to a lonely person and share the chocolate.

 Don’t stop swearing.  You can do more good cussing a blue streak while you fix something on your older neighbor lady's house.

Don’t give up yelling. Start smiling at strangers.

Don’t try to make yourself less bad, try to make yourself more good.

If we really look at the reason why we give up something for Lent it is because God gave up his only son for our salvation.

Maybe the point is not in the sacrifice but in the result. Salvation. Saving. Rescuing. God made the great sacrifice. Incidently, and I am sorry for those I will most certainly offend, God’s son is there with him now. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father even now by the beliefs of most Christians.

What really happened is that God gave. It was the gift.... not the sacrifice that was the point of it all. God gave us the gift of a second chance at life everlasting. God gave us an instructor to show us the way. God left the Word to inspire us and to give us hope. God made our lives better.

Wouldn’t it be better to practice Lent by making the effort to improve the life of someone else? Isn’t that more fitting than giving up stuff we think is going to impress God? Isn’t a quiet act of kindness more pleasing to Him than our bragging about the stupid minor little self-serving sacrifices we make year after year?

Maybe...just maybe.... God created cocoa so we could enjoy a chocolate shake.... We don’t know that God wants us to give that up. Nowhere in the Bible does it say "thou shalt eschew chocolate". We do know that God wants us to be good to each other....

9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Romans 12:9-13 New Living Translation Bible

Maybe the real way to make ourselves better people is not to concentrate so much on the things we think make us less appealing and find a way to appeal to others in ways that really mean something.

That’s how I am going to practice Lent. I’d rather give back than give up. Its easier, and I feel better about it. Yep....its still self-serving.



Cathy said...

Oh Tressa your sound advice makes too much sense for anyone to follow, I know from being raised Roman Catholic how important this time can be (came up quickly didn't it lol) Being ingrained with the idea of sacrifice of self is hard to switch to sacrifice for others benefit. My mother used to say "offer it up" when we'd deny ourselves something we enjoyed for Lent. Truly, you're right it's useless makes no sense does no good and causes guilt when you invariably fail. So your suggestions are right on point.

Attila The Mom said...

Lovely, lovely post. I read it twice!!

Connie said...

I'll have one tweety bird with that free hug,thank you...

Char said...

When I was a kid (raised in a tiny town) there were no Catholics around. So when I encountered my first ash cross, I thought...why would that woman go out with dirt on her forehead? And, I still don't understand. We are all products of our environment.

Nice posting. And you're right, it usually is all self serving.

singamaraja said...

Singamaraja reading your blogs